If you’re an empathetic or a kind-hearted person, how do you protect yourself?  I think one of the first things to recognize is the range of styles that people bring to their everyday interactions.  So on one end of the spectrum we have the givers who do tend to enjoy helping others.  On the other end of the spectrum we have what I call the takers – the people who are constantly trying to get as much as possible from others and not contribute nearly as much in return.  

And it turns out to be somewhat risky to be constantly helping and supporting takers.  And one of the things that I’ve been trying to teach in my courses for years and been studying as well is can you learn to recognize the signs of a taker and then scale back your helping and giving?

Ask that person either to reciprocate by helping you so that the person is not getting away with self-serving action.  And I think that’s one really critical step, to actually screen the motives of the people around you that you’re really supporting and helping out.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.